Derek Simcik

Executive Chef,
Atwood Café, Chicago

Derek Simcik, executive chef at Atwood Café in Chicago, is a true Kimpton rock star. And he has the tattoos to prove it. Simcik gives American comfort-food classics an enticing spin, melding the familiar and surprising for delicious results.

That's not to mention his sweet spot for desserts. While Simcik's life and culinary journey has taken him to five continents, he's now happily rooted at Atwood Café, which is housed in a 105-year-old Chicago landmark building.

  • Q:What kinds of desserts do you create that have savory elements? Which is your favorite?
  • A:There's my brown sugar polenta cake with corn crème anglaise {a light custard sauce}, a chocolate pot de crème with black garlic and coffee syrup, and the frozen bacon peanut butter bar with a spiced curry crème. There's no way I could choose a favorite! All are so distinctive and delicious.
  • Q:Which gets the most raves from guests?
  • A:My frozen bacon peanut butter bar. People seem to love new takes on childhood favorites. You can actually see the delight it in their faces as their taste buds register the familiar flavors of a Snickers and then get hit with the surprise taste of bacon.
  • Q:What do you like about using savory ingredients in desserts?
  • A: The shock value – that reaction from guests when they don't expect something savory but discover that it actually works and they love it.
  • Q: Is there a tool that you can't live without when making these types of desserts?
  • A:Silicone molds are essential for most of my desserts – I use them whenever I'm baking or setting mousses. They're available in all shapes and sizes. With them, there's no need for non-stick sprays or oils, plus they're eco-friendly since you can use them over and over again. I recently used silicone molds for my chocolate dome with black garlic gelato – yes, black garlic.
  • Q:Did you ever make a savory dessert that was especially unusual and took awhile to catch on?
  • A:It was my chocolate dome with black garlic gelato that took people awhile to warm up to. At first, they couldn't see past the word "garlic," but once I got them to try it they came back for more. Black garlic tastes drastically different than white garlic, almost like a spicy Fig Newton.
  • Q:Any predictions for savory ingredients we'll start seeing in desserts this year and beyond?
  • A:I believe bacon will continue to be king for the next year or two. It's a classic go-to and pairs well with so many different flavors. Another classic savory ingredient that will stay strong in desserts is cayenne. I'd like to see even more rare savory items make it to the dessert menu, like foie, curry or even candied celery.
Derek's Favorite Recipe

Behind the Apron: Featured Recipes

Derek is serving something special:

"Fig Newton" Ice Cream Sandwich and Brown Sugar Polenta Cake with Cream Corn Anglaise and Candied Popcorn
Check out the recipes

Atwood Cafe   |   1 W. Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602   |   Phone: (312) 368-1900   |